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What is a Hazardous Waste Site?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 17, 2024
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A hazardous waste site is a location where materials considered particularly dangerous are disposed of in a manner considered safe by the most advanced science available. The reason humans have developed the concept of a hazardous waste site is to prevent these materials from coming into contact with humans and the environment. In essence, the entire system is founded on the idea that people should avoid being near these materials.

It is important that a hazardous waste site be equipped to deal with the form of hazardous waste being processed. There are hazardous gases, solids, and liquids, and these may be considered dangerous for a variety of reasons. A hazardous waste site must also operate according to the guidelines set forth by the country where the site is located. Some countries have different philosophies concerning the methods by which toxic wastes can be disposed.

There are many different kinds of materials that can be considered hazardous. Usually, if a material is ignitable, corrosive, or toxic, it is considered hazardous. Some materials common in households, such as batteries or mercury thermometers, are hazardous and must be disposed of in special ways. It is important to keep track of the recommended way of disposing of household items even if they seem harmless. Businesses are often regulated to ensure that all materials are disposed of properly, but household wastes are the consumer's duty.

Problematically, not all items are identified as dangerous when created, so hazardous materials often end up in normal waste disposal areas and must be dealt with after they have already caused negative effects on the environment, animals, or humans. Labeling these sites is often very difficult, as a site can be hazardous for an unknown amount of time. Many people believe that the best way to deal with hazardous waste is to simply not create it, but this is generally not a feasible solution. Science for controlling, recycling, or even neutralizing hazardous waste is constantly improving, and so hazardous waste sites are typically in the process of becoming safer.

A hazardous waste site must be located somewhere, and that location is often relatively near human beings. When a hazardous waste site is built or expanded near a community, people quite frequently protest due to perceived danger. Whether or not danger is present as determined by the most accurate science available, being located near a facility designed to handle materials that are toxic to humans is known to cause anxiety in inhabitants.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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